October 7, 2010

revisions are a necessary evil

You just finished the manuscript you’ve been working on for months, years, or maybe even lifetimes… now what? I asked myself this when I finished my first book a few months ago. Is it time to revise? I say yes, and no. I jumped into revisions about a day and a half after I finished the manuscript. I polished it up to what I thought was good quality, and then gave it to my husband to read – my alpha reader. He found problems with it, and he’s an IT professional. So I took his suggestions and revised again. I then sent it out to my beta readers. They still found problems with it (I predicted they would since they are/were all Creative Writing or English majors at my former university). I took some suggestions to heart and some I discarded because they didn’t fit with the “feel” of my novel. They didn’t understand what I was going for. They didn’t understand the novel.

I sent out a single query once I had finished the suggestions from my beta readers. I’m not sure if I was so vain to think I only needed to send out one query, or if I was just simply optimistic. Still haven’t heard back, so I’m assuming it’s a rejection.

I now know why it would be a rejection.

After not looking at my novel for over a month, I went back to it yesterday. Guess what? I found more problems. I found jarring scene transitions, too many commas, bad pacing, bad dialogue, flat characters, and even misguided plot points – and I’m not even finished yet. So now what? Do I quit?

No. I keep revising. 

One thing I did notice: my beta readers were right. The suggestions I had dismissed because they weren’t “right” for my novel, turned out to be (mostly) right. I’ve made changes that alter the stakes in my novel. I’ve developed the characters further with the mindset “if there is an opportunity for the main characters to argue, make them argue!” I’ve even made piddly changes like word choice, comma placement, and adverb murder – things I should have done the first time around.

So, this boils down to the question I first asked. Is it time to revise?

From my experience, if you are as impatient as me go ahead and dive into revisions. It won’t hurt anything. Once you have spent a week or so on revisions, and you think it is the best thing ever written in the history of mankind, put it aside. Don’t query yet.

Go hang out with your friends. Go bowling. Go hang out at a bookstore and sip on some coffee. Do something other than writing, because if you are anything like me, your life has revolved around writing for the past few months and you’ve become quite anti-social in the process. Get away from your work. I recommend a full month at the least. Trust me. That month will make a huge difference. I think the best thing you can do while you wait on your manuscript to stew in your desk drawer is READ. READ. READ. I read fourteen books between revisions.

After that month has passed, go back to your novel, remember why you love it. While it has felt like a job for what feels like centuries, there is a reason you wrote it: you wanted to tell a story. You wanted to make someone laugh and cry as you did while writing it. Remember that when you go into revisions because revisions suck. They take up a lot of time, and you will hate them with every fiber of your being. At least, I hate them. You may love them, weirdo. 

Revisions are a necessary evil, but they’re also your best friend. If you can stick through revisions, you have a much better chance at sticking a good agent and a good editor (more on my success story when I have one), because revisions aren't over until that book is sitting on a bookshelf priced at $7.99 for mass market paperback. Your agent will want revisions. Your editor will want revisions. It's part of the job.

So, good luck with it, and if you have anything to add when it comes to timing your revisions, comment below!

1 comment:

  1. You know, you make me want to start a blog. But since I have nothing to say and no success story or anything to tell...[sarcasm] I guess I'll wait until I'm a big success. [/sarcasm]